So look, ‘serious minded’ has just never been a description of me. I love cheesy fantasy and horror, occult adventure, pulp culture, etc. So we’ll be having an occasional bowl of that here in the old bloggo.
It’s a pretty good season for fantasy and speculative TV, and there are some pretty cool wizards and quasi-wizards. I can’t say it’s a great year for occult TV, though – most of the wizards tend to be using ‘science’ rather than sorcery – but it’s making for some fairly cool storytelling
Dr Helen Magnus is the wizard of the new Sci-fi series ‘Sanctuary’. In this case we have science as magic – but the setting is a huge gothic facility, the creatures resemble werewolves and various demons, and we find Magnus the wizard investigating the hand-written books of lore left by weirdo scientists. I admit to finding the dalliance with occult motifs thinly veiled as science to be kind of frustrating. This show began as a series of short web-casts, I hear, and the first episodes – patched together from those webisodes - were pretty choppy as a result. It’s getting better, and having ‘Magnus the magician’ be a hot, smart, strong woman is a-ok by me. I’m not enchanted with this show, but I think it has potential.
Zeddicus Z’ul Zurander is your very typical fantasy wizard in "Legend of the Seeker" a syndicated series based on Terry Goodkind’s fantasy series ‘The Sword of Truth’. This is a Sam Raimi production, shot in new Zealand, with the folks from Hercules and Xena - however the tongue is out of the cheek in favor of more serious fantasy storytelling. Goodkind’s books are classic post-Tolkein, even post-Jordan fantasy – nicely realized worlds over many novels. The series has a big job working with a sprawling worldscape like that, but so far it’s at least entertaining. Of course this setting gives us a more directly ‘magical’ depiction of the wizard’s work, but it’s also pretty post-D&D – the Wizard has firebolts and other good fighter spells, as well as being mixed up with big prophecies and kingdom-level plots. There has been a little depiction of ritual magic, and I rather hope for more as time goes by. I give extra points for the hot magic-using warrior woman, too.
I should mention Supernatural here, but they don’t really play with the wizard archetype at all. The two young heroes have slowly worked themselves up to being competent occult warriors, dealing with demons and angels, but they’re short on a wizard – they could use one, presently. Maybe I’ll write separately about ‘occult’ TV – this show has had the coolest depictions of ritual magic available in a current series. Not saying much these last seasons, but they’re the leaders.
Dr Walter Bishop is the wizard of the Fox sci-fi conspiracy ‘Fringe’. They use the term ‘fringe science’ for the experiments that center the plots, and the man at the heart of the mystery is Bishop himself. Once a mad scientist working in academe, he gets brought out of the asylum to help ‘the agency’ fight his former colleague, who has become a Black Scientist. Bishop himself isn’t what you’d call either morally good, or strictly sane. It’s his skill in speaking with the dead, creating various homunculi and breaking the scientific spells of the bad guys that make him valuable. The look of this show is more universal Frankenstein than medieval gothic – rusted metal, dusty glass cabinets – odd specimens in jars, hidden stashes of old fringe science lore. Dr Bishop’s experiments – done in the early 1970s – included plenty of psychedelics, and we’ve seen obscure dietary supplements employed in some of the electro-shamanism. All in all Walter is probably my fave wiz in this line-up. He’s morally ambiguous, capable of cool marvels and probably actually nuts, but he’s obviously enjoying his work.
Maybe one of these days someone will give us a new, cool occult adventure – where’s Joss when ya need him…